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Successful Native American Entrepreneurs Who Help Others

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.

Native American Success and Contributions

Native Americans have become famous and infamous through distorted images created by various media. Verbal, written, and even digital reports made since Europeans first came to North America include claims of “friendly and noble savages” and bloodthirsty demons, but also highly skilled survivalists and conservationists.

To the good, we know that at least 39 indigenous groups provided successful code-talkers to American forces during World War II, and a particular tribal group sent help to the Irish during the Potato Famines of the mid-1800s. However, many individuals and companies owned by Native Americans have become successful and charitable in the 20th and 21st centuries as well.

The tribal groups having some of the visible examples of success and charity include the Seminoles, Blackfeet, Ojibwe, and Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara groups that are discussed below.

Seminole Family in Cyress, Florida in 1916. Colorful attire has become popular with tourists in purchases from the Seminole peoples.

Seminole Family in Cyress, Florida in 1916. Colorful attire has become popular with tourists in purchases from the Seminole peoples.

Seminole Nation

The Seminole Nation, including African-American members, is composed of the following three peoples:

  1. Miccosukee people
  2. Muskogee (Muskoki) peoples
  3. Descendants of the Black Africans that escaped American slavery and joined the tribe.

The Seminoles today live in Florida and Oklahoma. Originally in Florida, these groups aided the welfare of escaping Black slaves hundreds of years ago by adopting blacks into their tribe. The Seminole offered a freedom with an opportunity for life as tribal members, including jobs and ownerships in member-owned businesses as time progressed.

The Everglades Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians Constitution supports its federal recognition as a nation - a nation that planned for success. As early as 1959, the group first became recognized in a treaty as "Miccosukee Seminole Nation" by Cuba. In Florida, Seminole Nation owns a successful Hard Rock Cafe that offers many jobs each year to both indigenous and non-indigenous individuals.

The Seminoles improved life in Florida by reactivating the Seminole Indian News and maintaining the Seminole Tribune newspaper into the 21st century.

The Seminole Nation Department of Commerce in Oklahoma has earned a rating of four stars out of five stars possible for being a good place to work, according to surveys complied by GlassDoor and Indeed.com. The company operates a number of social justice programs.

The separate Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. is a group dedicated to business operations and development under leadership of the tribal council under their own constitution. Headquartered in Hollywood, Florida, they state that they are the most successful businesspeople among Native Americans.

The Florida group owns the Sheraton Tampa East Hotel, a number of gaming establishments, large numbers of cattle, citrus groves, museums, tobacco shops, and other businesses. All of these provide a boost to the state economy and additional jobs each year.

Blackfeet Nation

The Originals

The Blackfeet call themselves "Niitsapi", meaning "the Original People." They live on 1,500,000 acres of prairie lands today in the North Central States. Members of other tribes and some non-indigenous people live with them and enjoy the hospitable nature of the Blackfeet. Living in the North Centra; States and Canada for around 10,000 years, the people usually call themselves Blackfeet in Montana and Blackfoot in Canada.

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Around the world, almost 86,000 people report full-blood or part-blood Blackfeet heritage and their registered tribal roles make them one of the largest Native American Nations in North America.

The Blackfeet Nation as a whole owns many successful companies and its members own many additional businesses both on and off reservation lands. These businesspeople are successful, which they attribute to a mindset of refusal to fail, supported by strong family and tribal ties and actions.

Maintaining hundreds of businesses, the Blackfeet are leaders among Native North Americans in business and economic growth among the following industries:

  1. Oil and Natural Gas leases
  2. Aviation
  3. Fine Arts
  4. Tourism
  5. Entertainment
  6. Education
  7. Other goods and services

Some Blackfeet Businesses

  • Blackfoot Movie Mill. 369 West Bridge Street; Blackfoot, Idaho
  • Blackfeet Nation Businesses in Browning, Montana
  • Siyeh manages Blackfeet Enterprises in Browning Montana:109 N Public Square, Browning MT 59417. The Siyeh Corporation manages the umbrella Blackfeet Tribal Enterprises companies within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation adjacent to Glacier National Park. Harvard University and the U.S. Federal Government are involved in strengthening this enterprise.

A Favorite Business

A Blackfeet Writing Company pen is one of the best stick pens you can find. They never leak or leave a blob of ink on paper. Their pencils and markers are also of high quality. No longer widely available, they can still be found on Amazon and Ebay, as well as in fundraisers for youth from time to time.

The Nation Supports Many Charities

Foundations and charities supported by the Blackfeet/Blackfoot people include:

  • 4-H Clubs in Montana
  • Blackfeet Alcohol Resistance programs, recognized by the FBI in 2012.
  • Blackfeet Buffalo Horse Coalition
  • Blackfeet Community College
  • Blackfeet Indian Land Trust, Including Yellow Bird Woman Sancturary
  • Blackfeet Opportunities, Inc.
  • Blackfeet Youth Development Program
  • Blackfeet Youth Mentorship Enterprise
  • Indian National Finals Rodeo
  • Museum of the Plains Indian Artist
  • Young Eagles Senior Center

According to the Flathead Beacon in August 2018, Blackfeet Nation filed a lawsuit against five different prescription drug manufacturers and three wholesale drug distributors because of an opioid addiction epidemic on the reservation and across America.

Ojibwe Nation

The Ojibwe Nation is located in several cities around Minnesota and Michigan, and extends into Canada, where the people are known as Chippewa. As a nation as well as among its individual members, this groups owns many businesses, including convenience stores, office supply stores, a wild rice operation, resorts like Soaring Eagle in MIchigan, and retail sales of native-made apparel and other merchandise.

An Ojibwe named David Anderson is the man who founded the successful Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants in Minnesota. During 2004, Mr. Anderson became Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. This allowed him to help native communities improve and prosper under increasing economic pressures. He has also maintained a nonprofit corporation called the "Life Skills Center for Leadership" to help at-risk youth. In November 2021, he was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

Ojibwe Service Organizations

  • Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund
  • Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College
  • Native Justice Coalition
  • Ojibwe Cultural Foundation: cultural and language preservation organization serving all Anishinaabek communities.
  • Three Fires Ojibwe Culture and Education Society: church

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation

A Native North American Oil Boom

Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation owns the massive oil and natural gas rights on the large Fort Berthold Reservation, as well as Williston and New Town in North Dakota. The Bakken Oil Field reportedly holds enough oil to fuel all of North America for a century.

The tribal group maintains interest in conservation, partnering with Horry-Georgetown Technical College and the U.S. Federal Government to allow forestry and wildlife students to work on the reservation as interns.

Already refining oil coming from Alberta Province in Canada via pipeline, the MHA opened a new oil refinery just west of Makoti ND along Route 23 in 2012. Oil-related jobs on reservation lands increased in numbers for several years and both indigenous and non-indigenous workers were hired. This resulted in infrastructure improvements in added roads, dwellings, and schools from K-12 to college, including an outlay of $15,000,000 from the end of 2008 through 2011 alone, with additional improvements made during the next decade.

Several Native American Nations have prospered in business for many years, created jobs for diverse people, and have been active in social justice initiatives, environmental causes, youth programs, and projects that address and treat substance abuse.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 04, 2012:

Daneiella - I love to write about these types of topics, especially after I learned of family members that were Native. Thanks!

Angela - I have great respect for the Medicine Man and know that his ways are sometimes more effective that allopathic medicine. It's a great pleasure to know that you are with a Medicine Man.

drbj - I read in a newsletter that a govt-sponsored 3rd nation was attempting to emerge as well and will keep my eye on it. Thanks fr the comment.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 03, 2012:

Thanks, Patty, for this revealing and interesting infromation about the Seminole Nations and African Americans. Even though I live in Florida - home of the Seminoles - I was not aware that there were two distinct Seminole nations. Who knew? Not me until now.

Angela Blair from Central Texas on February 03, 2012:

It's encouraging to read about Native Americans overcoming the roadblocks they've encountered from so many directions. My significant other is a Medicine Man of the Lakota/Sioux Nation -- I'm referring him to your Hub as he always takes pleasure in Indian business success stories. Great read and voted up. Best, Sis

Daniella Lopez on February 03, 2012:

Fantastic hub. It's quite impressive how successful many tribes have been. I have really been enjoying your hubs on Native Americans and I hope to see more from you on the topic in the future. Voted up!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 03, 2012:

Donna - I still purchase the pens at some flea markets and "collectibles" shows. Someone out there still has some stock. They are my favorites!

Nan - I think you're right, except in the case of the Mohawk, Oneida and Seneca in the Northeast that owned black slaves and some intermarried.

Fantastic comments!

Nan Mynatt from Illinois on February 03, 2012:

Thanks for the information on the early Indian Tribes. Yes there was intermarriage between the Indians and Africans, I thought mostly in the southern states.

Donna Cosmato from USA on February 03, 2012:

This is fascinating information on these tribes and their ingenuity and entrepreneurship. The information on the Blackfeet writing pen was especially interesting, and I plan to check it out.

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